WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Wednesday night he will sideline his State of the Union address until the partial government shutdown comes to an end, after Speaker Nancy Pelosi told him in a letter Wednesday that a measure allowing the president to speak will not be voted on by the House.
Trump had said in his own letter earlier today that he planned to give the speech on Tuesday, Jan. 29, as originally planned, despite Pelosi’s concerns about securing the speech amid the ongoing partial government shutdown.
“I look forward to seeing you on the evening of January 29th in the chamber of the House of Representatives,” Trump’s letter said. “It would be so very sad for our country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule and, very importantly, on location!”
In for Trump to address a joint session of Congress in the House chamber, however, the House and Senate must approve a resolution allowing him to do so. Normally a perfunctory vote, Pelosi said Wednesday that the chamber she leads will not take up that measure.
“I am writing to inform you that the House of Representatives will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the president’s State of the Union address in the House chamber until government has opened,” Pelosi wrote.
Pelosi said the two sides can work out a “mutually agreeable date” for Trump to deliver the address after the shutdown ends.
President Trump said he would not seek an alternate venue for the speech and will instead delay the address.
“As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed,” Trump said in a tweet Wednesday evening. “She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative – I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over.”
Citing security concerns caused by the lack of funding for the Department of Homeland Security, Pelosi last week suggested in a letter to Trump that they wait until the government shutdown ends to schedule his State of the Union address. Trump one day later canceled an official overseas trip Pelosi had planned.
Just an hour after Trump encouraged Pelosi to make the trip on a commercial plane, first lady Melania Trump flew to her husband’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on a government jet.
Trump noted in his Wednesday letter meanwhile that both Homeland Security and the Secret Service had made assurances that the the shutdown does not raise security concerns for the address. When asked last week about that determination, Pelosi noted she also would like to avoid having law enforcement officials work the speech without pay.
The modern tradition of delivering the State of the Union live to Congress dates back to President Woodrow Wilson’s address in 1913. Presidents George Washington and John Adams also delivered their speeches in person, but President Thomas Jefferson, in part because he believed the speech to be too regal a display, began the practice of giving the constitutionally required update to Congress in writing.
The Senate plans to hold two votes on Thursday aimed at ending the shutdown, now in its 33rd day.